“Everyone wants to be appreciated, so if you appreciate someone, don’t keep it a secret.”
– Mary Kay Ash
The Kennett High School Class of ’64 had their 35th reunion in 1998. We had achieved a certain level of success and wanted to give back to the school, which played a big part in our lives. We decided to recognize the individual from school who made the greatest impact on our lives through a scholarship in his/her name, but it wasn’t easy to choose.
Nate Kendig introduced us to Gettysburg and the Civil War, Grace Merrick taught us how to put words together in sentences and sentences into paragraphs. (Don’t blame her for my writing, she taught me I should be an Engineer.) The one person that seemed to make the most impact on all of us was the Vice Principal Ken Webb.
I knew him as a real task master, sending my friend Steve Loeffler home that last day of school. Stephen was by far the best dressed person on campus that day, wearing his dress Bermuda outfit of dress shoes, long socks, Bermuda shorts, dress shirt, tie and jacket. Still it wasn’t within Kennett’s dress code. Mr. Webb was the bad cop to the Principal’s good cop. The myth had it that single moms, whose teenage sons were kept in line by Mr. Webb, sent him “Happy Father’s Day” Cards.
So we developed a criteria for the Webb Award to recognize the graduating senior who best exemplified Mr. Webb’s school spirit and leadership. The first year it was given out to Scott Whittle, the point guard who helped take the basketball team to great success. Mr. Webb watched the presentation with tears of joy.
Since then, there were 22 other award winners and I remember Meghan O’Neal, from my daughter’s class, who played soccer in the last game of the year against Unionville with a broken foot. That was not why she won the award, but it represents the talent and spirit of the winners.
Since then, Bill Ewing a renowned portrait painter from our class, captured Mr. Webb on canvas and the painting is in the school library. A few years later Dr. Rudy Karkosak became the Superintendent and brought a couple of us together to create theKennett Education Foundation (KEF) to support the school. A big part of the KEF’s role is to provide awards, recognition and scholarships. Today the coordination of that function is done by KEF board member Sally Coonan KHS ‘68.
Sally says KEF will recognize 46 students with awards and scholarships this year,valued at over $82,000. Though KEF does provide scholarships on its own most are scholarships administered in the name of individuals who entrust the foundation with their money. These scholarships recognize skills, abilities, community and school service, athletic and music contributions, as well as financial need and volunteerism. Some scholarships are awarded for one year; others are multi-year awards, depending on the wishes of the scholarship donor.
KEF is especially proud of its Pathways Scholarships, which provide a full ride to students attending community college for an Associate’s degree. Three students have been chosen so far and are in varying stages of their post-secondary educations, supported fully by KEF.
There are other awards supported by the school, the PTO, the Teacher’s Union and the Chester County Community Foundation. The top award is the Rupert Cup, given by the school to the best student.
Early in the life of KEF I asked my siblings and kids about a Family George Award. My brother Bill,KHS ’68, said that one of his teachers wrote that his paper was fine but it didn’t have the unique voice that the teacher had come to expect from him. That comment probably contributed to Bill’s creative life that included starting up the Touchstone Theater Company and being on a board of the National Endowment for the Arts.
The Family George Award has been presented to the most creative graduating senior with an original voice, for the past 13 years.
When Joan Holliday and I published our book “The Story of Kennett” we felt the earnings from the book should come back to Kennett and what better way than a student award? The money from the sale of the book has gone to someone who represented the spirit of Kennett and volunteerism. I was very touched when Molly Hohner won it for starting a “Women in Engineering” Club at the High School.
Sally and I both feel that we need to move towards a time that no Kennett High School graduate stops their education because they can’t afford to go on to postsecondary education and training. Thanks in large part to a very talented counseling organization, the majority of graduates have a financial path to building theirown American dream.
KEF would be remiss if it didn’t recognize the teachers who are making the greatest contribution in the classroom. And this year they arealso recognizing Nurse Diane Shannon who helped lead the school through the trials and tribulations of the pandemic.
Dr. Karkosak started the Kenny awards to recognize staff members for outstanding service to the school, students and community. And, there is the school’s “Legends” program that recognizes graduates of Kennett that make a difference in the world. Most recently Leon Spencer and Bobby Morse were recognized, Mr. Mayor and the great basketball player, both from the class of ’68.
To be continued.